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Bucs solve ace early, hold off D-backs in win

June 13, 2018

PHOENIX -- When David Peralta's fly ball bounced off Austin Meadows' glove and over the left-field fence in the first inning, it seemed like Wednesday might be another one of those days for the Pirates. They'd lost 18 of their past 24 games and found creative ways to drop each

PHOENIX -- When David Peralta's fly ball bounced off Austin Meadows' glove and over the left-field fence in the first inning, it seemed like Wednesday might be another one of those days for the Pirates. They'd lost 18 of their past 24 games and found creative ways to drop each of the past two at Chase Field. And all of a sudden, they were in a two-run hole against Zack Greinke at a ballpark where he's been all but untouchable.
Between innings, a few Pirates hitters approached Jameson Taillon with a message: "We're going to get them back." Sure enough, the Pirates put up four runs in the second inning. They knocked out Greinke after his shortest start of the season, Taillon powered through seven innings, and the Bucs escaped a dramatic ninth inning with a 5-4 win over the D-backs.
"It's easy to start feeling a little sorry for yourself or say, 'Not today, man,'" Taillon said. "That's when you have to put your foot down. I think the foot came down when our hitters started scoring runs. It was like, 'All right, let's go.'"

Greinke began the afternoon 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in seven home starts this season, but the Pirates wouldn't let his undefeated record stand. Josh Bell ripped an RBI double to left, Jordy Mercer pulled a two-run double past third baseman Jake Lamb and Gregory Polanco scored on Josh Harrison's groundout to third base.
The Pirates ran up Greinke's pitch count and worked four walks in his 4 2/3 innings on the mound, but it was more about selectivity than pure patience. Mercer exemplified that by padding Pittsburgh's lead with a first-pitch solo shot to right-center field in the fourth.
"I just feel like we made him work. We weren't chasing pitches," Mercer said. "We put some pressure on him where he had to throw the ball over the plate, and we had some big hits with guys on base to get that lead back and extend the lead."

They wound up needing every last run, but not because of Taillon. The right-hander threw 49 pitches in the first two innings, but he still delivered exactly the kind of outing Pittsburgh's struggling bullpen needed. Taillon shut down Arizona's red-hot lineup after the ball bounced off Meadows' glove, allowing only six hits and two walks while striking out four on the day.
"When he can do that, we can win a lot of games," Mercer said, "and he can win a lot of games."
Taillon continued an impressive run on the mound by breaking out his entire arsenal. According to Statcast™, 25 of his 108 pitches were sliders -- a relatively new pitch Taillon has quickly come to trust -- and 22 were curveballs. Catcher Francisco Cervelli made use of Taillon's changeup later in the game. Taillon has allowed more than three runs in only one of his past nine starts.
"It was that keep-going mindset, one foot in front of the other," Taillon said. "Let's get another clean inning, let's do another one. I actually felt really strong the whole way through."

Taillon's durability allowed manager Clint Hurdle to use only two relievers: right-hander Edgar Santana, who pitched a scoreless eighth, and closer Felipe Vazquez, whose shaky save sparked another wave of here-we-go-again feelings.
Arizona loaded the bases on a single, a wild pitch and two walks. Cervelli made a couple trips to the mound to cheer up Vazquez, keeping things light. After Jonathan Jay's two-run single trimmed Pittsburgh's lead to one and Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked to reload the bases, pitching coach Ray Searage came to the mound with a sterner message.
"Ray was mad. I can tell you that," Vazquez said. "It was the first time Ray was mad at me."
Vazquez got out of the jam, however, by striking out Lamb with a high, 99.8-mph fastball.

"They have confidence in me. I have confidence in myself," Vazquez said. "It was kind of shaky, but I trusted myself. I knew I was going to get out of it."
Goldy locked up: The D-backs could have quickly erased the Pirates' two-run lead in the second inning. Arizona loaded the bases with two outs on a bunt single, a hit by Greinke and a walk by Jay. That brought up Goldschmidt, who has crushed the ball throughout his current nine-game hitting streak.
The Pirates said throughout the series that they wouldn't let Goldschmidt beat them, but Taillon had no choice other than to face him with the bases loaded. Further complicating matters, Goldschmidt saw Taillon's entire arsenal during an 11-pitch flyout in the first inning. But Taillon got Goldschmidt to swing and miss at a 2-2 fastball, up and in, to end the inning.

"I blacked out. He's an awesome hitter," Taillon said. "It was back against the wall for sure, facing a guy like that who's been as hot as he is. "
Meadows knocked a ball over the fence in the first inning, but not quite the way he'd like to do it. The left fielder leapt at the warning track to catch Peralta's fly ball and watched it bounce off his glove and into the first row of the left-field seats for a two-run homer.

"I thought I had it, then I looked at my glove and it wasn't there," Meadows said. "Then I heard the fans cheering, and I was like, 'What?' Then I looked at my glove, and I was like, 'OK, that makes sense now.' … I thought it was in there. It's just one of those weird, unlucky things."
"That's what it takes -- momentum. Get guys to believe in here, and who knows, we can rattle off a stretch there where we're right back in it. I think that's the biggest thing. We've got a lot of season left. We haven't got hot yet. I feel like we need to get hot and win eight, nine, 10 in a row, then we'll see what happens." -- Mercer, on how the Pirates can snap out of a tough stretch

"I love it, but at the same time, I don't like seeing great players struggle because it makes me feel like, if I have a good day, damn it, I'm going to struggle again at some point. He's a good pitcher. I respect him. He's been around a long time. It's cool to say I was able to go up against Zack Greinke." -- Taillon, on beating Greinke
After Thursday's off-day at home, the Pirates will begin a 10-game homestand Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Reds at PNC Park, where Chad Kuhl will start against Matt Harvey. The Bucs have lost each of Kuhl's past three starts despite his 3.12 ERA during that stretch.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.